I don’t know that I would define Theresa Weir’s memoir, The Orchard, as “sublime and enchanting” as Jamie Ford did. It’s compelling, sad, and tragic. There are moments of redemption and glimpses of triumph over life, but, overall, the book is a warning, a story of loss.
The Orchard’s opening is horrifying, and that opening tale resonates throughout the entire book. It’s the story of Lily, the young daughter of an herbicide/pesticide salesman, who demonstrated his product to farmers, showing them it was even safe to drink, as he and Lily drank glasses of it. Urban legend, or, should I say, rural legend? That theme runs through the entire book, and Weir says, “We are all waiting to die.”
Weir reveals bits and pieces of her family life in the course of the book, a life dominated by her father’s desertion, and her mother’s anger as she searched for happiness and a man. It’s the life that led Theresa to her uncle’s bar in rural Illinois, where she was working when Adrian Curtis walked in. People warned her that his farm was cursed. A lot of people connected to Curtis Orchards had died. But, she only saw the handsome farmer who was attracted to her. And, a young woman who had been abandoned by her parents saw a man who was the fifth generation on his family farm. But, even a twenty-one-year-old city girl recognized there was something wrong with the smell and cloud of pesticide that hovered over everyone connected with local farms and orchards.
Theresa Weir craved a normal family life, although she didn’t know what it would be like. And, the life she found with Adrian wasn’t what she expected. His master was the farm, and his parents controlled that. Early on, she realized it was a life she didn’t understand, and might never understand. Eventually their children turned them into a small family. Adrian’s master remained the apple orchards, while Weir found she had a gift for writing.
And, the reader knows that, no matter what happens, Weir’s story will end in tragedy. The atmosphere is thick with pesticides, portending the future. Weir dug into her past, cutting her wrists as she once did as a teenager, to let her story bleed on the page. For the sake of the story, she brought all the pain to the surface. The Orchard is a tragedy, followed by a glimpse of hope and the future. But, it’s the memory of the pain, the loss, and the curse of pesticide that lingered with me.
Theresa Weir’s website is www.theresaweir.com
The Orchard by Theresa Weir. Grand Central Publishing. ©2011. ISBN 9780446584692 (hardcover), 227p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.